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Products for grant FZ-231325-15

Multinational Industries: Pleasures, Vices, and Addictions
David Courtwright, University of North Florida

Grant details:

Cultivated Pleasures: Alcohol, Drugs, Social Class, Gender, and the Civilized Order (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Cultivated Pleasures: Alcohol, Drugs, Social Class, Gender, and the Civilized Order
Author: David T. Courtwright
Abstract: In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries political, religious, and medical elites attempted to decommodify alcohol and other psychoactive drugs whose use had become problematic in an industrializing, urbanizing, and nationally competitive world. The global movement toward restriction and prohibition was, in one sense, ironic. For practically all of human history, alcohol and other food-drugs had actually functioned as means of elite control, aggrandizement, and imperial expansion. As early as 1953 anthropologists put forward the suggestion that civilization itself, without which there would be no elites as we know them, arose in response to the quest for more dependable supplies of alcohol. This paper reviews and critically assess the anthropological, historical, and scientific literature on alcohol, food-drugs, social class, gender, the Neolithic transition, and early civilizations. It argues that, through such practices as competitive feasting and labor pacification, alcohol and other food-drugs did strongly reinforce the hierarchical and gendered labor tendencies inherent to early civilizations. Brewing and food-drug agriculture also helped to spring what historian Yuval Noah Harari has called “the luxury trap,” creating patterns of work and trade that kept commoners on a labor treadmill, punctuated by occasional sprees, while their male overlords enjoyed the lion's share of the harvests. The paper concludes by showing how these early developments established an enduring pattern, with substance abuse and addiction—and, more generally, all forms of escapist vice—being paradoxically concentrated in the lower and upper social strata of adult male populations. That pattern persisted throughout history, until the situation became sufficiently fraught with moral and strategic risk that late-modern reformers and policy makers could no longer ignore it.
Date: 06/24/2017
Conference Name: Alcohol and Drugs History Conference, Utrecht, 2017